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Life and Work with Hannah Henke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hannah Henke.

Hannah, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Documenting memories has always been an important thing in my family. My Grandpa brought his point and shoot digital camera everywhere he went, we had countless disposable cameras around the house, and my dad would always have his video camcorder in hand. Even in the early 1900s, my Great Grandma took photos of anything she could and labeled the back of the picture with who was in the image and what they were doing. Similar to many families, it was the way we cherished moments. I love going home to visit family and looking through old family photos and watching embarrassing home videos.

I was given a few point and shoot cameras as gifts throughout my childhood, but I would say the real start of my photography career was not until my senior year of college. I was a gymnast for 16 years and was on the Acrobatics and Tumbling team at Baylor University until November 2016. Collegiate athletics consumed my life and college career, and I never ventured outside of flipping. But after realizing I wasn’t going to flip another day in my life after I graduated, and realizing that I didn’t know who I was outside my academic and athletic life, I decided to take a step away from the sport. I wanted to enjoy my senior year of college, explore different passions and really invest in the formative people that had been placed in my life during my time in college.

Suddenly, a full day was added on to my week- literally 24 additional hours. I had a lot of spare time and didn’t know what to do with it! I had a Canon 80D for a Public Relations internship that my parents so kindly gifted me with and decided it was time to figure out how to use the dang thing. With the help of my friend Sarah Lindstrom, I slowly but surely began to pick up how to shoot in manual and my first official photoshoot was January of 2017. That spring, people started trusting me to take their senior portraits, and I put all of my graduation money towards going to Kelsie Emm Photography’s workshop on the Oregon Coast. It was there that I learned the basics of wedding photography.

After the workshop, I realized this wedding photography thing could actually be a career. With a lot of patience, prayer, hard work, saving money, EXTREMELY supportive family and friends, and a 30 hour a week job at a local church in Waco for 2.5 years, I made the jump to full-time photography in August 2019. I did all the legal things to make myself official: hired a CPA, registered as an LLC, opened up a business account, and put my parent’s home as the legal business address so all the spam mail would be sent to them :’-).

During those 2.5 years of prepping to make the jump to go full time, I tried to find my groove in photography. I wanted to develop my aesthetic, my look, and build up my ideal clientele. I wanted to make it MY thing. It was MY business that I was building right? I went into each session and each wedding wanting to create art and the most beautiful images for my client. In the age of social media, this sounds fine. Unfortunately, this is what most wedding photographers are taught to do.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with creating a beautiful image for people who hired you to capture their day or their moments because they like the way your pictures look… but with that thought process came insecurity of my work. I found myself trying to constantly prove myself, trying to create art, trying to be better, trying to gain more followers, trying to be seen, trying to get re-posted. It was a never-ending battle to prove myself to only myself. It was exhausting and I was on the verge of burnout after only a few years into making my new found passion my career.

I finally came to the realization that being a photographer means you are in the service industry. It wasn’t about me, social media approval, or creating art. This job, this passion, this beautiful way of telling stories for generations to come was about my clients and serving them well. After attending the All You Witness workshop in November 2019, I learned to swallow my pride and decided if I was going to continue wedding photography as a career, I was going to fully invest in not making this business about me. My work would simply tell a truthful story of the day my clients hired me to document. My artistic touch wouldn’t make it beautiful; their choice in venue, flowers, or attire wouldn’t make it beautiful. The humanity in front of my eyes that I had the privilege of being invited to and witnessing was beautiful. All I needed to was arrive, be fully attentive, witness, and document the day as it was lived.

As a wedding photographer, it is my greatest privilege to provide you, your significant other, and your future family with your first set of family heirlooms… pictures you look back on when you need a moment to cling to when you want to relive a memory, or even have storytime with your grandchildren. I want to document moments to give you something tangible to look back at after your wedding day. I want to tell the true story of you and your people, the people who helped you get here.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Any advice for other women, particularly young women who are just starting their journey?
I would say, don’t expect it to be easy. You will have to work hard, make sacrifices, and be patient. Things might not happen the order you want them to. The timeline you have in mind will probably never work out, and that is okay! Be flexible, talk to other people who have been there and learn from them, find a mentor, build your support and accountability group, be real with yourself, and don’t forget to dream a little.

As a Christian, prayer and discernment were two of the foundational things during this process. I had to rely on God and the people He placed in my life during this process. The 2.5 to 3 years it took me to go full time was filled with me going back and forth with God on what I was doing and why. I prayed for His provisions and timing to be clear for me and that I would have the courage to make this jump. Long story short, it was evident He wanted me to come to the realization that this job wasn’t about me before I took the leap. The 2.5 to 3 years of waiting didn’t go to waste.

I’m still making things up as I go and praying through things. I feel like every day brings new challenges and offers a different thought process and perspective to life. And I am constantly learning new ways to sustain myself as a business owner. I think as long as you’re receptive to what’s going on, what people are saying, and hold yourself to your truths and values with the help of your closest people, everything will fall into place exactly the way it’s supposed to. I’m not saying that there will always be a success, but celebrating the good and accepting the hard times are both necessary to experience true growth.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I am primarily a wedding photographer! However, I will sometimes do family, senior, and maternity sessions, depending on the time of the year. My goal is to document the emotions and events of the day to help tell your family’s legacy for the generations to come. The in-between-moments, the interactions, the personalities, the deeply rooted relationships you have with one another because of the life you have lived together. The good stuff.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
Fight Hustle End Hurry Podcast with John Mark Comer and Jeff Bethke. This Cultural Moment with Bridgetown Church and Red Church. The Doctor’s Farmacy with Dr. Mark Hyman. And any conspiracy theory or true-crime podcast you can think of 🙂

Books: Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, Love Does by Bob Goff.

Other resources: My mom, Kyong Henke. She’s the strongest woman I will ever meet. Her life story is one of perseverance, grit, sacrifice, love, and grace.

My dad, Bill Henke. He tells dad jokes like nobody’s business and can fix just about anything. He has also shown me what it looks like to make sacrifices for loved ones by putting others first and how to think critically about situations in life. The rest of my amazing family and friends. I treasure all of them dearly.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Cordray Creative.

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